By Mikha Flores, VERA Files
The Commission on Elections has started deploying the ballots to be used in the May 13 polls to the different provinces.
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Monday they proceeded with the deployment on Saturday, April 20, but refused to disclose the areas where the first sets of ballots were transported for security reasons.
“Basta importante makarating doon sa presinto iyong lahat na kailangan -- ballot boxes, ballots, PCOS (What’s more important is that the ballot boxes, ballots, and Precinct Count Optical Scan machines reach the precincts),” he added.
Brillantes said the general ballot deployment starts from the warehouse then to provincial hubs. From the hubs, the ballots will be transported to municipalities and then to polling precincts.
The deployment of ballots and other election materials will be finished by May 8 while the machines are expected to be in place by May 6, in time for their final testing and sealing, Brillantes said.
The compact flash (CF) cards—the main storage device of the ballots’ digital images and other election information—will be delivered closer to the elections. They are undergoing accuracy tests in a Comelec warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna, according to the poll chief.
“Hindi namin sasabihin ang lahat ng deployment kasi lahat yan puro security. Anong oras? Saan gagalaw? Paano pupunta? (We’re not disclosing the deployment details for security concerns. What time will it be deployed? Where and how will it go?)” Brillantes said.
However, the Comelec uploaded on February 13 a notice to political parties, party-lists and citizens’ arm on the start of the transfer of printed and packed ballots from the National Printing Office (NPO) to a Comelec warehouse along Marcos Highway in Marikina City. Comelec started moving the ballots from the NPO on February 15.
NPO Assistant Director Raul Nagrampa said ballots for Metro Manila are still “within their premises.”
The printing office printed a total of 52,333, 321 ballots in record time, or about weeks ahead of the Comelec deadline, but the poll body decided to stick to its original deployment schedule.
Brillantes said the number of printed ballots equals the number of registered voters, because they did not avail themselves of a provision in RA 9369 or the automation law that allows the printing of three excess ballots for every precinct which are intended for Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) comprising the chairperson, a BEI member and a poll clerk.
Brillantes said ballots are precinct-specific, so the BEI can only cast their votes in the precincts where they are registered, otherwise they have to go into local absentee voting.
Under the old practice in a manual election, BEIs could vote in the precinct where they are assigned to serve on Election Day.
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)